Deformable image registration (DIR) is an active research topic in biomedical imaging. There is a growing interest in developing DIR methods based on deep learning (DL). A traditional DL approach to DIR is based on training a convolutional neural network (CNN) to estimate the registration field between two input images. While conceptually simple, this approach comes with a limitation that it exclusively relies on a pre-trained CNN without explicitly enforcing fidelity between the registered image and the reference. We present plug-and-play image registration network (PIRATE) as a new DIR method that addresses this issue by integrating an explicit data-fidelity penalty and a CNN prior. PIRATE pre-trains a CNN denoiser on the registration field and "plugs" it into an iterative method as a regularizer. We additionally present PIRATE+ that fine-tunes the CNN prior in PIRATE using deep equilibrium models (DEQ). PIRATE+ interprets the fixed-point iteration of PIRATE as a network with effectively infinite layers and then trains the resulting network end-to-end, enabling it to learn more task-specific information and boosting its performance. Our numerical results on OASIS and CANDI datasets show that our methods achieve state-of-the-art performance on DIR.
Deep model-based architectures (DMBAs) are widely used in imaging inverse problems to integrate physical measurement models and learned image priors. Plug-and-play priors (PnP) and deep equilibrium models (DEQ) are two DMBA frameworks that have received significant attention. The key difference between the two is that the image prior in DEQ is trained by using a specific measurement model, while that in PnP is trained as a general image denoiser. This difference is behind a common assumption that PnP is more robust to changes in the measurement models compared to DEQ. This paper investigates the robustness of DEQ priors to changes in the measurement models. Our results on two imaging inverse problems suggest that DEQ priors trained under mismatched measurement models outperform image denoisers.